The Washington Post
By Karin Brulliard
Image courtesy of Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post
Coram the grizzly bear developed a bad habit as a youngster of raiding trash cans, ripping into dog food bags and stealing bread from pickup trucks. Now he’s a 600-pound adult who puts these refined scavenging skills to use as a professional product tester.
Along with five other grizzlies that live at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center just outside Yellowstone National Park, Coram spends his summer months beating and biting coolers, food canisters and garbage cans. Only products that withstand 60 full minutes of bear mauling receive a valuable stamp of approval — a seal from the federal Interagency Bear Committee certifying them as “bear-resistant” and recommended for use in bear country. Those that the grizzlies puncture or bust open must go back to their manufacturers’ drawing boards.
Coram “is a master at the container,” according to the center’s chief operating officer, Kevin Murphy. But all the bears at this site, the only one in the nation approved by the committee for these “live bear tests,” have proved their fitness for the job. Spirit, an 11-year-old female, persistently sought trash and food in residential areas of Whitefish, Mont., even after officials shot her with rubber bullets and menaced her with firecrackers. Sow 101 was moved 150 miles to the Wyoming wilderness after stealing doughnuts and other human foods in West Yellowstone; she walked all the way back and reoffended.